Last month, I joined 14 other travel agents representing all those in Ireland in taking our suitcases to the Irish government in protest.
Like our UK counterpart, the Irish travel industry has been decimated.
And some of thechallenges faced by the industry here differ.
Travel agents have been working flat out for the past six months, with zero income. It has been incredibly stressful trying to get money back from suppliers, some of whom have still not refunded the agent, and many clients are doing chargebacks, leaving agents in a double loss situation.
The Irish government has, for the past six months, encouraged people not to travel for non-essential reasons, which has meant that most people havedecided not to travel abroad anywhere, even to those places on theso-called green list of counties deemed safe to visit.
So, led by Travel Boutique’s Linda Jones and Linda McNamara from Ace Travel, we presented a petition signed by more than 6,500 people calling for help, along with their comments – heartfelt stories of their love for their jobs.
This civilised protest in Dublin was picked up by all the local TV channels and newspapers in Ireland, and gave huge coverage for the plight of the travel industry in Ireland.
What the industry requires for its survival is non-refundable grants and extensions of the wage subsidy. We are so important to the Irish economy, employing more than 3,500 staff and turning over €1.4 billion.
The industry is also calling on the Irish government to lift travel restrictions and to update the green list. Our government has offered incentives for people to holiday at home, including tax credits of up to €250 towards staying and eating out inIreland. No such assistance has beengiven to the Irish Travel Agents Association.
Another major issue facing agents is public liability. In most instances, the cost to defend can actually be higher than the award. Even if the case is dismissed, if you have had to defend it, it could cost between €15,000 and €70,000 in legal fees.
I personally have decided to write off 2020, and expect to see some type of recovery in 2021 (if there is a vaccine), and the return of some sort of normality in 2022.
But I don’t think travel will ever be the same again, and we are all going to have to look at how we change our business for the “new world”.
There will be opportunities and I am optimistic customers will remember those agents who provided outstandingservice, and if I know my fellow agents in Ireland, they most certainly have.